MITRE-Harris Poll Survey Finds 75% of Health-Insured Individuals in the United States Are Concerned About Medical Bills

Survey Finds Consumers Lack Understanding of Health Insurance

MCLEAN, Va., & BEDFORD, Mass.--()--The MITRE-Harris Poll Survey on Health Insurance Literacy and Perception finds 75% of health-insured individuals in the United States have some level of concern about financial hardship due to medical bills—nearly matching 77% of uninsured sharing that same worry.

That wariness may be a result of more than 4 in 10 of those insured receiving an unexpected medical bill for reasons including: their insurance provider not covering as much as anticipated (47%), not realizing a procedure wasn’t covered (42%), or a doctor/facility being out of their network (33%). Individuals with employer-based insurance plans reported more billing surprises than Medicare beneficiaries.

“These survey results highlight the challenges that people across the nation face in selecting and using their health insurance,” said Juliette Espinosa, senior Medicare, Medicaid, and ACA Marketplace strategist, MITRE. “Even those fortunate to have insurance struggle with bills that result from misunderstanding or underestimating deductibles, scope of covered benefits, and level of financial exposure for out-of-pocket costs of treatments and procedures. Consumers need clearer guidance from insurance providers and more price transparency from hospitals and medical offices. New federal policies are geared toward achieving these goals, but there is much work to be done to inform and support consumers.”

The MITRE-Harris Poll Survey’s recent findings also reveal that most people (53%) say they understand their health insurance plan only “somewhat,” and only 33% feel they understand their plan “completely.” Only 34% of people surveyed are aware that hospitals are required to list their prices publicly. Once made aware of this requirement, 68% say they are likely to look up the prices.

Additional key findings from the MITRE-Harris Poll Survey include:

  • 28% of respondents admit they never check their coverage before using their insurance. Trying to figure out what is and what is not covered is the biggest frustration (28%), followed by finding someone to answer questions (20%) and figuring out who is and is not in-network (20%).
  • 74% of those surveyed report understanding what mental health services are covered “somewhat” or “completely,” while one-quarter (26%) confided they do not understand “very well” or “at all.”
  • Women—who are more likely to make healthcare decisions in their household—report feeling far more stressed, confused, and anxious than men when thinking about choosing a health insurance plan.
  • Nearly half (45%) say insurance companies are primarily responsible for making health insurance plans easier to understand. Younger people in the United States, though, feel there is shared responsibility among insurance companies, healthcare providers, and the government.

“This research demonstrates that there is a consumer education gap to fill when it comes to health insurance,” said Rob Jekielek, managing director, The Harris Poll. “There are a variety of healthcare player implications to this as older generations [Gen X and Boomers] are twice as likely, versus younger generations [Gen Z and Millennials], to say that the primary responsibility of making insurance plans easier to understand is with insurance companies. In contrast, younger generations are twice as likely, versus older generations, to say that the primary responsibility is with the government.”


This survey was conducted online within the United States, June 24–28, 2021, among 2,013 adults (ages 18 and over) by The Harris Poll on behalf of MITRE via the Harris On Demand omnibus product.

Editor’s Notes:

About The Harris Poll

The Harris Poll is one of the longest-running surveys in the U.S. tracking public opinion, motivations, and social sentiment since 1963, and is now part of Harris Insights & Analytics, a global consulting and market research firm that delivers social intelligence for transformational times. We work with clients in three primary areas: building twenty-first-century corporate reputation, crafting brand strategy and performance tracking, and earning organic media through public relations research. Our mission is to provide insights and guidance to help leaders make the best decisions possible. To learn more, please visit


MITRE’s mission-driven teams are dedicated to solving problems for a safer world. Through our public-private partnerships and federally funded R&D centers, we work across government and in partnership with industry to tackle challenges to the safety, stability, and well-being of our nation. Learn more at


Media Contact
Mike Murphy, external communications principal, MITRE

Release Summary

MITRE-Harris Poll Survey on Health Insurance Literacy & Perception finds consumers lack understanding of health insurance; concern about medical bills

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Media Contact
Mike Murphy, external communications principal, MITRE